By Molly Pipe, 1st Year, Social Policy and Politics
The University’s Sustainability Policy pledges to prevent waste. So why are we starting the year off with so much of it?
I’m sure you’re all familiar with the feeling. You set off to Freshers Fair with a phone, your keys and some cash - and by the time you get home, you’re staggering under the weight of hundreds of leaflets.
The sheer scale of paper waste throughout Freshers Week is staggering. When I emailed societies to find out how many flyers they’d printed off for it, figures ranged between 50 and 400. Times that by the 400-plus societies at Bristol, and the number is - well, it's not exactly a scientific study, but you get the picture. It's a lot.
And it’s not just the paper waste. Throughout the week, I was also given free pens, free t-shirts, free tote bags (arguably worse for the environment than plastic bags) and even free sunglasses. The only think I was happy with was the free booze.
The SU shouldn’t be the sole bearer of our blame. In fact, the bulk of the waste was from the University. At every intro event, I seemed to get stacks of pointless bits of paper, most of it either reiterating information that had already been emailed to me, or containing a mere sentence or two (see the offending ‘Information Point’ card below).
The sheer scale of paperwaste is staggering
The University likes to talk about it’s achievements around sustainability - and it is doing a lot of good work. It provides water refill points throughout campus, donates old furniture, wood and paint, and claims to recycle over 95% of its waste. But there’s no getting around the fact that this one week at the start of term is a massive oversight in its environmental considerations.
According to the sustainability team, the University follows DEFRA’s Waste Hierarchy, which places an emphasis on preventing the unnecessary use of materials such as paper. So it’s all very well putting recycling points in every cafe and common room on campus, but if you’re giving every new student a large stack of unnecessary papers and stationary, you’re failing to prevent the problem in the first instance.
What I find particularly ironic is that there is a scheme in place to recycle pens, as well as a stationary reuse service for the poor forgotten writing implements of exam season. So why, if the Uni is so keen to rehouse pens, are staff giving out thousands of new ones at Freshers talks?
The SU, have even acknowledged the paper waste produced by Freshers Fair, and outline proposals to tackle it. This is clearly not an under-the-radar problem. It’s interesting to note, though, that said proposals are all centred around recycling - whether that’s signposted bins or Green Ambassadors encouraging students to dispose of leaflets correctly. Preventing those leaflets being used in the first place is a thing. Be proactive!
Both the Uni and the SU need to reassess their approach to Freshers week. These are my recommendations for both:
Dear Bristol University, trust your emails:
I wasn’t the only fresher to feel that every intro talk and leaflet was repetitive. It seemed like every day I was getting another print out of the careers booklet or the SU guide or the campus map. So trust that the information has been sent out online, and that if, as you say, we are independent learners, we’ll be able to access it of our own accord.
Dear SU, educate your societies:
Drop them an email. Tell everyone to print smaller flyers, and fewer - if they even need them in the first place. Students shouldn’t panic that in order to get sign-ups they need to go crazy on the paper front. In fact, doing something other than handing freshers yet another leaflet may well pique their interest more.
This isn't a hard issue to tackle
This really isn’t a hard issue to tackle. And if you’re reading this as a society President wondering how the hell you’re going to promote your club without flyers, just look at the approach of BUST (the students’ Sustainability Team). They used a grand total of zero flyers this Freshers, and simply got everyone to photo the information instead.
You should all take a leaf out of their book. Or rather, don’t: I’m not sure they printed one in the first place.
</small>*Featured: Courtesy of Molly Pipe*</small>
Do you think that the SU is doing enough to fight climate change?